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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Trail du Josas 2010

Sunday 11th, 12:10pm. I have run 34km's, there is one km to go. I am staring at the final hill that separates me from the finish line. My tank is empty, my feet hurt, sweat stings my eyes and every part of me wants to lie down and let the runners behind me pass by. I am so close...........
(the route)

(course profile)

6:20 am. I rise without the help of my alarm clock having slept incredibly well. I have found it hard in the past to get a decent rest the night before an event through stress or anxiety or a combination of both. This morning I feel relaxed and contemplative as I drink my well-sugared tea and chow down on my peanut butter and jam sandwiches. My gear has already been laid out from yesterday and I go about finishing up my packing whilst trying my best not to wake up Alicia, Dylan and Pearl. They eventually rise at 7.45 as I am making my way out the door. Kisses are planted on foreheads and lips etc and off I go. Because the race is only 6 kilometres away I decide to cycle down to the rendezvous point. The weather is superb and I take my time getting there, enjoying the sounds of the forest as I pedal along. With just one km to the gymnasium which is to be head quarters for the race I get a flat tyre. I have what I need to repair it in my bag but it will have to wait until later as I need to get my race number and registration finalised. Once I have everything in order and my bag left with the organisers I head to near the start line to check out whats going on. There are lots of people milling around and the start of the Paris Marathon is being shown on a large TV screen nearby. The 35km race is first at 9:00 am followed by the 16km at 9:30. As the starting time draws closer the pack becomes a bit quieter and soon we will be off. I look around and see people of all ages, some have packs on their backs with various drinking contraptions attached and some have walking poles with big spikes at the end and I'm thinking to myself "how hard is this course?" I had done a bit of homework on the area beforehand but something was telling me it wasn't enough. A brief description if I may.... Jouy en Josas is situated in a valley, no mater which direction you travel from you have to descend into the town. It is quite close to Versailles in western Paris and is surrounded by amazing woodland, once you are there its hard to believe that such a quaint little village is so accessible to Paris. It really feels like a countryside town. Back to the race then. A few minutes after nine a lady stands on a hill beside the starting area and blows a whistle. Everyone assumes its to gather the runners attention but after she blows it two or three more times and shouts "Allez, allez, allez" we get the message that its time to get stuck in.

(love this pic, kissing couple on the left, serious looking me on the right)

The opening two km's are spent rolling out of the town at a pace that doesn't appear to be putting a strain on anyone. As the course meanders around the local golf course and past the river I converse with a few of the runners and explain how I run to help raise Autism awareness, this intrigues quite a few of the runners and I tell them that there is still a lot to be done and to visit our web site. After ten minutes though its goodbye talking, hello hills. The first one comes from out of nowhere really, one minute its flat and after a sudden left turn with are facing a trail that zig-zags up through the forest. I see people starting to walk and gently move past them whilst also staying at my own pace. Once the first ascent is out of the way I plug in my Ipod and crank up the two and a half hours play list I made last night. My pre race plan was simple, listen to some music for the first half and not push my body too hard. The ten km's that followed were a revelation, the trail was unrelenting in both its beauty and the demands it placed on my body. The heat was starting to rise and I had one bottle of isotonic drink to keep me going until the first aid station which came at the ten km mark. A quick stop there to refuel on water, peanuts (for the salt) a handful of pretzels and I was gone. Eating on the go is difficult, trying to do so and trudge up an incline is an entirely different story. This turned out to be the point in the race where the going got really tough.

(many sections had steps like this)

(picture 35 kilometres of this)

At twelve km's I was heading down a narrow track at high speed with bramble to my right and a towering wall to my left. This led me into a canyon and I could feel my quads burning from braking all the way down, remember when you were a kid running down sand dunes and went so fast that you felt like you would go head over feet?? This was the same only the fall wouldn't have been as soft. After a hundred metres of flat I could see a few runners ahead slowly snaking up the other side. This was done by pulling themselves up on a rope that ran parallel to the wall. When it came to my turn I pulled myself up as quickly as I could and on completion of the hardest part so far I had to marvel at the diversity of this course. I was only third of the way into the race and I had run on roads, fields, rickety bridges, cobbles and steps. The guy or gal who dreamt up this little torture session was a genius or a masochist, possibly both. With the next aid station as my focal point I decided it was time to up the pace a bit, I reckoned I had enough water to last me until I got there so I gulped down quite a bit and put the hammer down. The next ten km's were absolutely cruise controlled and the runners high was in full effect. I found the twists and turns a joy and as the suns rays prodded through the leaves I was never as happy to be alive. This as any runner will tell you soon gives way to the feeling of misery. That was waiting in the wings for me, oh boy was it waiting

(the rope section @ km 12, impossibly steep)

(note the rope on the tree, right of photo)

After aid station number two I was under the impression that there would be one more at the thirty km point and then the last five km to the line. This lack of alertness on my part would almost be the undoing of me. Leaving the station was like leaping out of the frying pan and into a volcano. The ravines that followed had to be negotiated either with the aid of a branch plucked from the forest floor or on all fours. I found myself clambering to grab protruding tree roots to stop my feet sliding on the dry and dusty forest floor. Climbs like this came in rapid succession and with my running rhythm broken it was becoming harder and harder to recover the momentum I had been gifted with only half an hour before. Runners were stopping at the top or half way up gasping for air. It was now an absolute necessity to keep moving forward, languishing was not an option and I feared that by stopping I would never get moving again. It must also be noted that a lot of the course was only flagged by red and white ribbon and because of the pack being so spread out I spent a lot of time on my own. This was a danger because if I missed one of the flags I could go off track completely and straying off the designated route would result in disqualification. This fear was exacerbated after yet another dizzying climb. I had reached the top and could see no one in front or behind, I scanned the horizon but could see no markers to guide my way. So I stopped and waited, two minutes passed and nothing. Finally I heard the rustling of feet behind me, I had not taken a wrong turn at all, I had just failed to notice the little path to my immediate right and my new found saviour guided me to the road ahead. It was an actual a road and I had never been so happy to see one, ever. It was only for five hundred metres but it gave me a chance to finish my water and regain my composure. I thanked the guy again and asked if he wanted to push on a bit harder with me, he declined and once again I found myself alone. I was approaching the thirty km mark and hoping to see some sign of refreshments in the distance, but nothing appeared. I met some race organisers who were taking photos and asked them what was happening. They old me I was about 100th in the race and that there was no more aid stations until the finish line, I had no water left and the sun was bearing down heavy by now. I had five km's left, now the mental battle commenced.

(these hills were every few hundred metres)

(the sun was really beating down in the early morning)

(a side view)

(kilometre 30)

This last section was half road, half forest. Every time I was on the paved road I ran as hard as I could. I started to pass a few other runners but could feel every drop of glucose leaving my body. The last thing I needed was to push too hard and hit the wall but the flip side was stalling too much and letting the fatigue take hold. I thought of my family and how much faith they have in me, I thought of all the friends who have supported what I have been doing. My mind jumped from feelings of invincibility to forlornness in matters of seconds. I had not been keeping an eye on my time but I checked my Garmin now and it told me I had done thirty three km's and 3:07 had elapsed. That felt a little fast as I had predicted a 3:35-40 finish, never mind as I'm sure my brain was not in adequate shape to be analysing times right now. And so it was with one km to go that I reached that last hill. I stared up at this final hurdle and could hear the runners behind me turning up the heat for the final stretch of this amazing race. So I closed my eyes, inhaled deeply and let out a primal, guttural roar and ran at that hill like it had wronged me in some way. I pushed as hard as I ever have and when I hit that top I could hear the announcer over the loudspeaker in the distance. The descent was down and 'S' shaped path and under a little bridge, a slight rise brought me onto a narrow path that was lined with spectators cheering and clapping. I leaped from the path on to the main road and ran my last one hundred metres in exultant joy. Being clocked in I was told that I had finished in 3:17:26 and in 84th place. Results Page
I felt elated and after drinking a lot of water and fruit juice was happy to chat with some of the people I shared the course with. Everyone was in agreement that it was an amazing and challenging race and with the exception of no aid stations after km twenty it was a perfect day. There was even free beer handed out to all (just a coke for me) and a band playing rock music in the back ground. A bouncy castle had been set up for kids and as the sun shone and people enjoyed themselves I imagined a lot of people making a day out of it. I decided it was time for home and was not particularly looking forward to having to negotiate the uphill cycle on the way home but hey, I looked at it as a warm down. Just as I was hopping on my bike I looked down at my back wheel and muttered to myself "Oh Sh*t, I still have to fix that puncture"

(our day was done, the bands was just beginning)

See you round the bend,



  1. Malcolm you are a rock star!! This is why we all love you so! xxx... dory

  2. Dory, you are too cool for school. Love ya xx

  3. Malcom, you are so inspiring. Congrats on this accomplishment. your racing is just like pearls journey, has its hills and easy sailing but in the end it is a journey you will always be proud of. Hugs to all and when you go for your 100k send me a pic so I can put it on my profile for support.

  4. You are sooo right Sarabeth. Do you want a pic before the 100k?? I will get Al to do one with her snazzy camera. Thanks again you guys for all YOUR help to US. xx

  5. Please send me a pic. I will put it up for support on you 100k.


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Running for Pearl

This blog is dedicated to my daughter Pearl who was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in August 2009. My goal is to raise funds and awareness by doing what I love....Running.